AFI Fest 2020 Recap

2020 has been quite the rollercoaster of a year…but on the upsideI’ve been lucky enough to get press credentials for several great film festivals (I’m sure it helps that the festivals have had to switch to virtual experiences, but I’m not complaining…). AFI Fest was one of those festivals — this was my first time ever “attending” and AFI Festival so I was pretty stoked about this one — and it didn’t hurt that they had some pretty interesting films on the lineup. Running from October 15 -22, thankfully, this one wasn’t quite as hectic and stressful (but in a good way 🥴) as TIFF. But yet again, I missed out on a couple of films that I was really looking forward to (“I Am Your Woman,” “Really Love,” “The Father” hopefully I’ll get to see them soon) and I wasn’t a huge fan of the way you had to pre-order films and those had already “sold out” before I could get to them…but I digress…

With 124 titles in the full lineup (53% directed by women, 39% directed by BIPOC and 17% directed by LBGTQ+) from all around the world, luckily I was able to catch a few of the docs and international features that I missed at TIFF.

Some of my favorite features at AFI Fest were (in no particular order):

“A L’abordage” — France

This was just a cute little film about friendship and self-discovery…an enjoyable watch. Check out my review here.

“Nine Days” — USA

This one was touching and really makes you contemplate life and what it really means to live. Check out my full review here.

“Wolfwalkers” — Ireland

I don’t usually get into animated film too much (unless we’re talking ’90s/early 2000s Disney or adult animation like “Family Guy” or “Archer” 😜) but this film was beautiful and sucked me in! The old-school animation and mix of Celtic lore (which has always fascinated me) and a message really made this one worthwhile. Check out my full review here.

“76 Days” — China/USA — Documentary

Very timely and shows the human side of the pandemic…a tough watch at times but very well done. Check out the full review here.

“Uncle Frank” — USA

Wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one…the longline seemed a little blah…but I was pleasantly surprised. Full review coming soon…

“Gramercy” — USA — Short

This one dealt with grief and mental illness among young Black males — a subject seldom talked about, let alone depicted on the screen. It was well done.

“Collectiv” — Romania — Documentary

This was a mind-blowing and eye-opening story about the deaths of dozens of Romanians during a fire at a nightclub and the aftermath as investigative journalist fight to uncover corruption and wrong-doing within their healthcare system and government overall. I may do a full review, but if you get a chance to check this one out, I highly recommend it!

“Wander Darkly” — USA

I really enjoyed this one…well-acted…interesting storyline with an even more interesting twist and it was an emotional rollercoaster. Check out my full review over at WLE.

“Apples” — Greece

This was really good…and fresh…and it’s not everyday I get to check out Greek cinema…definitely worth the watch. Check out my full review over at WLE.

Here are some of the other works I caught during the festival:

“Swimmer” — Sweden — Short

This one was pretty interesting and based on a true story

“Hopper/Welles” — USA — Documentary

This was really just a filmed conversation between film legend Orson Welles and future legend (at the time) Dennis Hopper — they discussed life and filmmaking and it was pretty interesting.

“I Carry You With Me” — Mexico/USA

A touching film about being your true self and chasing happiness no matter the consequences, but also about family and love and chasing the “American dream.” It was a hybrid narrative/doc feature which was pretty cool.

“Industry” — USA/UK — Series

I caught the first couple of episodes of this new HBO drama about the life of some ambitious graduates trying to make it at a top London bank — its all sex, drugs and money with lots of drama.

“My Little Sister” — Switzerland

This one didn’t quite do it for me — wasn’t really my cup of tea even though I was looking forward to seeing it because Lars Eidinger was in it and dug him in Netflix’s German series “Babylon Berlin”

“Tragic Jungle” — Mexico/France/Colombia

This one was beautifully shot and weaved in Mayan mythology which was interesting…it really gave me some “Daughters of the Dust” type feels…

“The Boy Behind the Door” — USA

I wasn’t quite expecting this one to be so brutal…especially to the kids. But it kept me glued to the screen…and the two kids actors (Lonnie Chavis & Ezra Dewey) were pretty solid…

“Eyimofe (This is My Desire)” — Nigeria

A universal story about trying to make it out and the quest for a better life…but life itself keeps getting in the way…

“Luxor” — Egypt/UK

Snooze fest…sorry…

“Piedra Sola” — Argentina

Beautiful expanses and an expert use of light/shadows and silence. Quite the visual journey with breathtaking cinematography…

“Should the Wind Drop” — Armenia/France/Belgium

This was an interesting one about self-determination and the legacy of conflict and genocide…what’s crazy is that I read something in the news just yesterday about on-going conflict in this region (Nagorno Karabakh)…

“Wildland” — Denmark

This was a wild ride that made me mad and then punched me in the gut in the end…how far will you go for family???

“The Big Scary “S” Word” — USA — Documentary

An interesting and informative look at the history of socialism in the US…well done…

“No Ordinary Man” — Canada — Documentary

It’s always cool when I get to learn something new…I had never heard of jazz musician and trans culture icon Billy Tipton…very interesting…

“Notturno” — Italy/France/Germany — Documentary

Great work of cinéma vérité that looks at the consequences of the vicious circle of greed, corruption, tyranny and foreign interference in the Middle East — in particular, the war-torn Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon.

“A 1984 Period Piece in Present Day” — USA — Short

An interesting look at how our memory and the media we consume impacts our subconscious behavior…

“Blocks” — USA — Short

This was hilarious take on the need for self-care — especially for parents…

“Claire At Seven Months” — USA — Short

We’re all just looking for companionship and connection…

“In Sudden Darkness” — USA — Short

Step into the life of a working-class Black family during the city-wide blackout in the Bronx…we’re all just trying to do the best we can…

“Postpartum” — Germany — Short

This was a quick little, well-done animated 4 minute film about the phases in the life of a new mother…

My Psychedelic Love Story — USA — Documentary

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction…

I also got the chance to check out some films that I’m ashamed to say I had never seen before — Melvin Van Peebles’ “Posse” (I’m pretty sure I had seen this it has just been a while) and “The Watermelon Woman” — I know, I know, I’ve got to do better.

But overall, I had a blast covering the festival…saw some works and discovered some really promising new directors/voices — I look forward to next year’s festival…hopefully in person. 😉